The day that was never supposed to happen is here
March 1st, 2013
06:00 AM ET
1 year ago

The day that was never supposed to happen is here

(CNN) - Today is the day lawmakers have known about since August 2011: the day those forced federal spending cuts kick in.

This Friday is also a day many never expected would come. After all, the cuts known as sequestration were designed to be so draconian that lawmakers would be forced to compromise and avoid them.

But they haven’t, and as lawmakers left Washington to begin their weekend on Thursday, so left any prospect of avoiding the cuts that President Barack Obama and his administration have warned will lead to long airport lines and fewer air traffic safety controllers; federal government furloughs and layoffs; cuts to food inspection and border security programs; and education funding decreases that will shut young students out of Head Start programs.

For all of the dire warnings, Obama acknowledged Wednesday that the cuts are “not a cliff, but it is a tumble downward.” He’ll set the cuts in motion on Friday with a stroke of his pen.

He is required to sign an order enacting the spending cuts by 11:59 p.m. Friday and will do so privately, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday.

Before that happens, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will meet with top congressional leaders: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

But Friday is seen by many as too late to reach a deal averting the cuts, especially with Congress out of town for the weekend.

After Obama signs the order, the Office of Management and Budget will send to Congress a detailed accounting of the cuts – how much from which agencies and which accounts. Every "program, project and activity" has to be trimmed without regard for what it is, according to the OMB.

Those who are employed by the government or rely on federal agencies’ spending are expected to feel the effects first. From there, the effects of the sequester will ripple outward across the economy.

The Obama administration has said the law gives them no leeway to spare one budget line at the expense of another, and insiders expect the cuts to be about 9% for nondefense programs and 13% for defense accounts.

What agencies do have some discretion over is how they roll out the cuts. In some cases, furloughs and other cuts could be backloaded, scheduling them to take effect at a greater rate later in the year in hopes that Congress will reach a deal to replace the sequester that has so far been elusive.

OMB sent affected federal agencies a letter on Wednesday reminding them to prepare for the cuts. Some agencies have already given employees their official 30-day notice of upcoming furloughs. Others are expected to follow soon, and budget uncertainty has already caused some agencies to cut back.

Congress delayed the cuts from triggering in January at the time of the fiscal cliff. The two month delay from January 1 to March 1, however, made the cuts steeper than the original 5% for nondefense spending and 8% for defense programs.

Not everyone is convinced these forced spending cuts are a bad idea. Some deficit hawks see them as one way to reduce ballooning federal spending and others who favor reducing military spending see their virtue, too.

Altogether, the cuts will amount to some $85 billion dollars this fiscal year, which ends September 30.

While today means the end to one fiscal showdown, fans of Washington financial wrangling have another date to anticipate: March 27. That’s the deadline for Congress to extend the continuing resolution that’s funding the government.

– CNNMoney.com’s Jeanne Sahadi and CNN’s Gregory Wallace contributed to this report


Filed under: Budget • Deficit
soundoff (775 Responses)
  1. Mike Name

    You voted Obama this is what you deserve

    March 1, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  2. jason

    we can close the gap by getting rid of waste - "Politicians"

    March 1, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  3. Wallaxce Prince

    The rest of us are having to tighten our belts; why not D.C.? Obama got his tax increase on January 1st, as well as the money he wanted to borrow at everybody elses' expense. Congratulations to the Republicans for holding the line for once. They wanted to give Obama the ability to target the cuts, but he threatened to veto it, clearly showing his stripes.

    March 1, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  4. Sue

    Its hard to be concerned about something that doesnt effect you directly. Take some money away from them too and lets see if we dont get them back at the table.

    March 1, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  5. Dave

    If we had a real president this would have never happened. Sad. Very sad. RIP USA

    March 1, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  6. ColdWarVet

    Barry you said any bill that came to your desk that didn't include automatic cuts you would veto. You got what you asked for. Now Barry answer me. When you were in the WH in 2009, and Democrats controlled the Senate and House, why couldn't you get a balanced budget passed? See if maybe you had some real life work experience before taking a job you are not qualified to have you would have an answer.

    March 1, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  7. V.M

    The only one to blame is Obama himself, his job as the president is to campaign for what is best for the country as a whole, instead, all he did was to push the democratic agenda, regardless of the harm to the nation. The republicans gave him what he wanted twice, once with raising the debt ceiling, once with postponing the cuts. Enough is enough

    March 1, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  8. pappione

    This needed to happen!
    Now we need even bigger cuts; not just to the "increases" in spending, but to current spending levels as well.
    Austerity is our only way out of this mess. They cannot spend themselves out of debt!

    March 1, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  9. erica

    now don't get me wrong b/c I love polar bears just really a comment with not as much meaning toward them as it is just a comment in general """but I bet we will feed the polar bears"""

    March 1, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  10. A-Rod

    The very first federal spending cut that needs to be impemented is paychecks to elected officials. Since none of you could figure this out then you should no get paid.

    March 1, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  11. Bill Smells

    If the President says, "middle class" again I'm going to shove it up his corn hole. He has no idea what the middle class is or how horrible he's made our lives. Go pound sand, Mr. President. You are a scourge on this nation.

    March 1, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  12. Mr T

    Government for the people.......yeah right. From this American, a big THANK YOU to all elected officials responsible in this administration as well as the past. This is what you call progress in the so called "greatest country" on face of the earth? A year and a half wasn't enough time? You are all a joke and have made America a joke. I know, let's have Oz come out from behind the curtain so Americans can see who is really running this country!

    March 1, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  13. Brad

    I fully expect chaos and hard times, if only because people want to make it happen to prove what a bad idea this was.

    March 1, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  14. Woody

    Well so much for everyone that prayed to their invisible God that it would not happen ! Maybe in God we trust on the dollar bill is not such a good idea after all . Maybe we should just trust the wealth will eat , but no one else ! When you believe in invisible and fantasy a good reality kick in the but I guess is what everyone needs ! You voted them into office !

    March 1, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  15. fondam

    I think everyone in Congress,Senate and the White house should take a pay cut FIRST,Miltary cuts are not smart,Not with other Countries building theirs....Its time us Americans take a stand ,their not better tha all the big CEOs

    March 1, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  16. janer52

    ya know what's funny? congress just 'goes home'. how is that acceptable? where's the leadership that says...oh no, you're going NOWHERE until this is resolved?

    March 1, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  17. Waynedawg

    $87 billion are massive spending cuts?? Taking place over a 10 year period..really? Massive? C'mon sheeple -

    March 1, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  18. Bob

    is anybody really surprised!

    March 1, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  19. Andrew

    When will people realize that by claiming this is a Dem vs. Rep. fight, you are only adding to the chaos. I'm pretty sure if we just put a bunch of regular people from across the country in a room and had them try to settle this, they'd be done before lunch time on Tuesday. Our leaders are becoming increasingly useless because they don't have to work a regular schedule and only politic for their party's gain. If you are going to be a career politician (like most in Washington are), I propose we make them work year-round and earn the pay they are getting. If they don't want that, then we slash the pay to reflect the amount they work and actually get done. This country is in such disarray because of the people running it, and its time that changed.

    March 1, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  20. johnnyz

    Personally, I think Congress is a failure AND that the budget cuts are necessary, especially for defense spending but spending across the board has to be stopped. American people also need to stop spending money that they do not earn or possess. Yes, the economy could correct and it should. Monetary policy and government spending is a mansion of cards. Time to downsize.

    March 1, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  21. dscon

    Well, Obama said in '08 "Bush's spending was immoral"......................
    Now that O'blame has outspent the last dozen or more presidents combined,
    his slash and burn fiscal tactics make him a prince?
    This narcissist cares not about his minions except for their "use-ability" for power.

    March 1, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  22. Kate

    Is this what Obama meant by 'Change'

    March 1, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  23. Darshan K.

    The "elected officials" in Washington are acting worse than spoiled little kids do. Their actions,on both sides, are Irresponsible and reprehensible. The person acting as President needs to be the arbitraitor in this, and not the kid with the ball threating to take it and go home!

    March 1, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  24. James R

    "No Pay Checks For You". The overly paid Welfare Recipients had to hurry to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, to line up in our tax paid Corporate Jets on the Tarmac and make their fast getaway before the Air Traffic Controllers were sent home.

    March 1, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  25. mocvdengineer

    Can the Reagan Republicans please come back.... That way we might get something done I WA.

    March 1, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
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